Of all the small towns in Washington State, Leavenworth is probably the most notorious due to the Bavarian theme of the businesses there. But beneath what some would call a corny gimmick is a real town with historical significance to the state and plenty of neat things to do in both the winter and summer time.
Leavenworth is a small former logging town off of the interstate, with its town square framed by the beautiful Cascade Mountains. Given that it’s part of the Cascades, you would expect it to be snowy.
The winter time fulfills that expectation, but the summer melts the snow away and reveals the full beauty of the town’s buildings. The architecture references southern German styles with brown exposed cross beams and white walls, with plenty of paintings of Bavarian citizens and German text rather than English on many marquees.
Icicle Village Resort
We stayed at the Icicle Village Resort, and they accommodated us with an expansive condominium next to the pool. It comes with a full queen bed, two televisions, a full kitchen and refrigerator, and a full bathroom with two sinks, just in case. WiFi is included as well for whatever device you bring.
On the site of the Resort are several amenities for your interest, including a large projection tv for parties, a small arcade for the gaming types, two large pools and a hot tub, and a full mini golf course. There are even barbecue pits if you want to make your meals outside in the sun.
Dining in Town
JJ Hills Restaurant
Next to the lobby is the JJ Hills Restaurant, named after the railroad tycoon James J Hill, an important figure in putting Leavenworth on the map. His Northern Railroad came through the town and made it an important lumber and sawmill stop for the trade. In gratitude, this restaurant bears his name and features a model train that zips around the shelf above the patrons’ heads during breakfast!
Breakfast is complementary to all guests of the hotel, and is served in a buffet style. You can go the regular route and have a bowl of cereal and pick from several choices, or the usual eggs, potatoes, and sausage. There’s even a waffle maker so you can bake fresh waffles, but be sure to get there before there’s a line! For beverages, coffee, milk, and several juices are offered.
For lunch and dinner, the expected German additions like the Weinerschnitzel and Bavarian Sausage Plate pop up. If you enjoy those plates straight from the fatherland, we recommend the Bavarian Chicken, a tender piece of grilled skinless chicken breast smothered in demi glace brown sauce. If that’s not for you, there are pasta dishes like the Chicken Fettuccine, Salmon and clams if you like seafood, or burgers and steaks if beef is your preference. There are also a variety of salads to pair your meal with. Save room for dessert and you can treat yourself to the Brownie Delight Sundae, a sweet delectable treat that combines brownies and ice cream, and is perfect for two to share.
In addition to JJ Hills, there are plenty of places to eat in Leavenworth. Across the street from the Icicle Inn is Heidleburger, for anyone wanting a good old burger fries and milkshake.
Good Mood Food
Our final stop before leaving was Good Mood Food, a small family run cafe with a wide range of food offerings. If you’re stopping by for breakfast, there’s breakfast croissants, waffles, and burritos to curb your appetite. For the sandwich eaters, there are several pita wraps to choose from, with fillings ranging from chicken to salmon. Sides of soup and salad can be added on, and there’s a lunch special that changes daily. And for the sweet tooth in your party, there’s an abundance of pastries, strudel, cookies, scones, and cake. Since it was such a hot day we decided to try the juice smoothie, a perfect blend of apples, beets, carrots, celery, and kale that hit the spot for our dry throats. To top it off we loved the giant chocolate chip cookie and strudel, which not only reinforced the Bavarian theme but tasted delicious.
Summer Fun in Leavenworth
Sip and Paint
If you’ve never tried painting while wine tasting, it’s a perfect and unorthodox way to treat yourself in the evening. To start off your Sip and Paint class, you sit down and put on your apron, and receive a short spiel on the guidelines of watercolor painting. Then you’re given a palette of paints, some water and a brush, and your art instructor Amber shows you how to make a beautiful watercolor image step by step. She is there to be a guide, but only if you feel you need one. Just grab your brush, and the rest is up to you!
The venue of the event changes each time, so the selection of wines available may depend on where your painting takes place. Ours was held at Broken Barrel Mercantile, and we walked away with one of my new favorite wines, the Blackberry Dessert.
Ever wanted to speed down a river, water gushing beside you, bumps and jostling occurring as you and your boat careen toward a rocky waterfall? Have no fear, your guides at Osprey Rafting have your safety as first priority. Also there are no waterfalls, but the rapids make for an interesting ride!
Your first action when meeting the company after signing in requires you to pick out a wetsuit. The river water is cold, and it helps to keep you warm both in the boat and in the water, in case you fall overboard. Therefore, we recommend you bring a swimsuit as your underwear and put the wetsuit on over it, so that the amount of clothes you get wet are minimal. The wetsuit does include booties, so no need to bring flip flops, sandals, or aquasox. However, do bring a change of clothes for the ending so you have something dry to get into. All valuables are kept secure in a bin until the end of the rafting trip.
After dressing and putting on our life preservers, we were loaded into a school bus and taken out to the river. We then climbed into our inflatable raft, consisting of four other passengers, and took a paddle each. Our guide named Noah was both experienced in rafting and very easy to ask questions and talk to. He kept the conversation going and always had our safety at first mind.
The rafting journey itself follows the Wenatchee River and goes through half a dozen rapids, determined as ‘class 3.’ Yet this fun ride requires no experience and is completely safe, so anyone from kids to adults can participate. All you need is the ability to follow your guide’s instructions and have the strength to keep your feet under the nooks in the boat. When your guide tells you to row, you row the number of times they tell you. When your raft bumps through the rapids, you ensure your feet are secure before entering them. It’s a simple proposition, and in return you get a wild adventure unparalleled by any theme park attraction.
The end of the journey brings every rider together on the shores for a communal barbecue of burgers and hot dogs, and on Saturdays a live musician entertains the group. Plus, throughout the rafting tour, several photographers captured the rafting, and here, on a television you get to see the fruits of their work as you eat. There’s even a fire pit and ingredients for s’mores if you’re up for it!
The main event we attended takes place from June to July when the weather is best, but in the late summer they expand their activities to kayaking, bocce ball, and stand up paddleboarding. We had some rain in our trip but it didn’t affect our overall enjoyment, so it shouldn’t affect yours either.
Ever seen a film or tv show where someone majestically rides a horse and wondered, “Why can’t I do that?” Wonder no more! Icicle Outfitters can hook you up with the Lake Wenatchee State Park Riding Stable, and you’ll be riding within two shakes of a horse’s tail. There’s nothing like swinging your legs over a horse’s back and ambling through the quiet woods to the sound of the river and the horse’s hoofs thumping.
When arriving, you’re immediately greeted with the sight of several horses tied up and waiting for you. Their sheer beauty is almost enough to overwhelm you right there, and they’re so accustomed to being around humans that they are easy to approach and pet. Our guide Frank helped us mount our horses and gave us a short talk on how to handle them, with simple guidelines like holding the reins back to stop, left to turn left, and right to turn right. Mounting a fully grown horse was initially daunting considering the height, and neither of us had ridden in years.
Still, they made it very relaxed and casual and before long we were having a ball trotting through the woods path. Frank kept the ride fun and interesting with narration of the surrounding area’s history, and plenty of humorous banter to keep you laughing. It was a fun trip, but be careful if you have a sensitive bottom. The saddles are very hard and after sitting on them for an hour, you’re bound to be sore for a few minutes!
For more fun, check our our Wintertime in Leavenworth article!
Don’t discount Leavenworth as a winter-only excursion. It’s not just a place for skiing or Christmas festivals, there’s enough in the town to see and do when the sun is out as well. The area still emits outstanding beauty even without snow capping the surrounding mountains, considering the extensive green trees and beautiful blue skies. Speaking of which, the cold, snowy winter is not at all indicated in the summer. When the temperatures rise to the eighties and you need to jump in the pool, you wouldn’t think Leavenworth, but you should.